So much for trying to keep things “low key” this week. Bob MacIntyre, the “wee boy from Oban”, is in with the big boys in the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open. He’s in the same group as world No 4 Rory McIlroy and 14th-ranked Rickie Fowler in the first two rounds at The Renaissance Club.
The dream draw is MacIntyre’s reward for emerging as one of the bright young stars in European golf this season, sitting as the top rookie in the Race to Dubai as he makes his debut on the circuit on home soil in the $7 million Rolex Series event in East Lothian.
“Well, you’ve got to be thrown in at the deep end at some point, I suppose,” said the 22-year-old as the marquee three-ball was revealed at his press conference, which he’d started by talking about trying to treat it as a normal week on the European Tour. He is now bracing himself for a hugely exciting opportunity.
MacIntyre, one of four Scots to graduate to the main circuit from the Challenge Tour at the end of last season, played with two major winners, Ernie Els and Charl Schwartzel, in an event in South Africa early on in the 2019 campaign and has since twice found himself in the same group as Tommy Fleetwood, the 2017 Race to Dubai winner.
“It’s another step in the learning experience for me,” he said. “In my first year, I’ve had quite a few already and this is going to be another one. To be out with them in your first Scottish Open is pretty special.” The left-hander has already been in Fowler’s company this week, the pair having taken part in a 14-club challenge match that was filmed for the European Tour social media channels and will be aired next week.
“I suppose I have,” said MacIntyre when it was pointed out that he was set to go head to head with Fowler for a second time on Scotland’s Golf Coast. “And I might have snuck a wee win in there, as well. I was a bit nervous, obviously, Rickie Fowler being a world‑class player and me being a wee Oban boy, so something different. But no, it was brilliant. Aye, the shinty stick was in the bag. The 15th club. Although I don’t think the shot counted, officially.”
On the back of his eye-catching exploits over the past few months, which included second-place finishes in both the Betfred British Masters and Made in Denmark, one busload from Oban had already been confirmed to make the four-hour journey at some point this week to East Lothian. His picturesque home town on the west coast will probably be half empty now on Thursday and Friday. The hype will be huge. MacIntyre knows that and, having done a great job so far in that respect, he is determined to take everything in his stride.
“I’m just going to try and learn from playing with these guys, and Rory is a guy that’s dominated the game for the last four, five, six years. So for me to get put into a group like that shows that people recognise the success you’re getting,” he said. “It’s going to be a thrill to be chatting with them down the fairways talking golf. It’s going to be something completely different from what I’m used to. It’s where you want to get to. It’s another step in the progression of my golf career and hopefully it keeps going the way it’s going and I can maybe battle with these guys down the line.
“Right now it’s just about I’m a young up and comer. I’m not the finished article, to be honest. Far from it. I’m only 22 so it’s about learning from these guys and hopefully when I’m their age, I can be one of them.”